Did you know that most yoga styles that we attend classes are just one or another form of what is known as Hatha yoga? Did you also know that the asanas (the yoga poses) are just a fraction of what Hatha yoga has in store for you?
I, just like so many others, started my yoga journey doing asanas for more physical flexibility and strength, as a mere form of body exercise to get in shape. Little did I know that I would open a door to a whole new world for me. My journey started with Bikram Yoga, a style that has its utmost focus on the asanas. The fact that you perform these poses in a 42 °C (107 °F) studio with all its discomfort will leave you no room for thoughts other than about these poses. At least, that’s what it was like for me.
That’s where the role of the mind starts having its play around time, but only in relation to your own endurance, self-esteem and self-love. I was surprised by the flexibility of some of the other participants, but after a while, I also noticed that they attended almost every single class and that the focus should be on myself, not on others.
Image source: Joyce Jacobs fotografie
I started to smile at my reflection in the mirror as a sign of doing well. Rule number one: do no harm. Not to others, but most of all, not to yourself. You are right where you have to be at, at this point in your life. Can you relate to this? Here comes the first part of the eight-limbed yoga path by Patanjali: the yoga yama ahimsa asks for devotion for non-violence. Both physically and mentally, as well as verbally.
You learn to listen to yourself, your body, your boundaries and not to force yourself into things you’re not ready for. It’s frustrating, but controlled breathing and acceptance will give you more flexibility to find comfort in pain and breathe into it. I love how yoga becomes applicable this way in daily life. I became more patient with myself, but most of all, much softer. Good things in life take time. You are the most important thing in your life, so make sure you invest time and love into yourself for good energies. Sometimes you even need to take a step back to be able to go forward again. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Life’s magical.
That’s when I started to deepen my yoga practice into other styles. I took a surf and yoga retreat in Costa Rica, where I could really sink into my body living this close to nature. Waking up with a daily yoga and meditation session just after sunrise, eating vegan breakfast, exploring Acroyoga, Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and so many new styles, My heart felt like it exploded right there with all these rich, new experiences!
Image source: KarO Photography
Meditation became a big part of my yoga practice during my travels in Central America. That’s where I could really empty my head and listen to myself.
It’s funny how my yoga journey in only three years has made me much more self-conscious, self-loving and accepting, physically flexible (but still a long way to go), changed my vegetarian diet to veganism, care less about stuff and more about experiencing and discovering, live more in the moment. Yoga is big, and I hope for all of you to encounter the greatness that yoga has in store for us. It’s so much more than a body exercise.
However, for some of us, it will always just be that – body exercise. It’s a challenge to keep your focus on the poses and become that flexible, but for me that’s not the most important part. I don’t even notice how far I’ve grown into those poses physically. In the meantime, I started to study to become a teacher.
Image source: KarO Photography
Funny how you come to a class for a stretch and then leave with inexplicable new energies. But then again, I learned that the physical part of yoga is just a minor detail. Sometimes it makes me sad that our Western culture is so focused on looking good, being a so-called fit girl, competing to be the most flexible making the best pictures of your poses to post on Instagram.
Originally, yoga practice was meant to be performed on an empty stomach in the early morning. Did you know that in India most people practice yoga in their pajamas? No crazy legging branding, just you and your teacher. You start with following up the yamas and niyamas to create a peaceful environment to thrive in to develop yourself further. Create space for you, and you’ll learn that all is one and that the universe is so much more in your favor than you ever could have thought.
Learn more about Debby at Bohemian Dreams, a personal blog by a Dutch girl with a gypsy soul about travel, yoga, meditation, spirituality and motherhood. You’ll be amazed at her stories!
Are you ready to take your yoga practice to the next level? Go on a yoga spiritual retreat and learn to apply the wonderful teachings of yoga into your daily life!